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ClearCam goes legit, will increase image resolution at a price

Mel Martin

ClearCam has been around for a while, and I first took a look at it more than a year ago. It was a clever app that had two modes. One mode took a series of four pictures in rapid succession, and then it saved the best and sharpest one in your photo library; the other mode took six images together and stacked them in order to increase resolution and reduce noise. In practice, it meant that the old 3G 2MP camera became the rough equivalent of a 4MP camera.

The app had been pulled from the App Store for a while -- the SDK did not allow access to raw iPhone images (only compressed images), which meant it was impossible to run any enhancement algorithms on the data. The SDK now allows for access to those uncompressed images, iPhone cameras are better, and ClearCam has returned as a regular iPhone app. It runs on the 3GS and the iPhone 4, and it requires iOS 4.

The app is similar to the original version, although now it chooses the best shot out of three instead of four. For the stacking or enhanced mode, it still takes six images and then aligns and processes them.

Gallery: ClearCam example images | 2 Photos

How did it work? It actually worked pretty well. The images that I rattled off on the iPhone 4 came out at roughly double the resolution when I used the software. If you are enlarging your images for printing, it's definitely a worthwhile feature.

On the downside, this works best for static photos. The enhanced mode requires six very similar frames for alignment and processing. That won't work well for images of people; they move too quickly for the software to do the processing. You can forget shooting sports or animals either.

The other drawback is that the app seems unable to access the focus mode, which is where you tap on the screen and select what should be in focus. Generally, my pictures were in focus, but when getting it right is critical, you can't choose what part of the frame is going to be the sharpest. I hope that will be added in the next version.

Also, note that it takes a while to take the six images, align them, and save them to your camera roll; the whole process takes just over a minute. If you are in a hurry, you can align and enhance the images later. Either way, they are saved on your iPhone.

If you look in the gallery, you'll see an image that I took in the garden. The ClearCam image is twice as large, but it has the same resolution as the image that I took with the stock iPhone camera. When we upload these, the quality is reduced a bit, so it's not a perfect way to judge the images. But trust me when I say that, if you are photographing text or detail, your photos should be sharper if you use ClearCam.

ClearCam is US $1.99 on the App Store. That's a much better price than the older version, which was $9.99.

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